Eye Styes (eye sties)

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eye sty

Eye styes (or "sties") of the eye are inflammations or infections of an eye lash follicle or one of the meibomian glands that lie along the eyelid edge.

Styes present as red, painful lumps which can develop whitish heads of pus like a pimple. They are not contagious so there is no risk of infection to another person. A stye is also called a hordeolum.

Self Help & Tips


  • Looks like a pimple along the edge or in the corner of the eye
  • Painful to the touch
  • Swelling in one spot on the outside of the eyelid
  • Redness

Children seem to have sties more often than grown-ups, probably because their glandular secretions are rather erratic, especially during their teens. Also, children are more likely rub their eyes with unwashed hands.

Self Help

Certain herbs and nutrients such as Burdock, Forsythia, Goldenseal and Echinacea may help heal styes.

Use of a plain, warm compress is helpful (you can also use a camomile infusion as a compress as well to help reduce inflammation). If you treat immediately after first noticing a stye it will usually clear up quickly, typically within several days.

Under no circumstances should a stye be squeezed. The eyelid is the thinnest skin on the body and is easily damaged.

  • Unlike chalazia, styes usually clear up within a week or so.
  • Do not squeeze styes. Your eyelid tissue is very delicate and can be damaged. In addition you can worsen the condition of the stye.
  • Warm compresses can soothe the discomfort. With closed eyes, apply compresses 4-6 times daily until the compress cools.
  • You can very gently wash the eyelid with a mild soap such as baby shampoo or water. This may allow the stye to drain. Keep your eyes closed when wiping to clean your lids.
  • Don't use eye makeup or eye lotions. If you get styes frequently, your eye makeup may be contaminated and should be discarded.
  • Don't wear contact lenses to prevent any infection from spreading to the cornea.
  • There is often a relationship between a patient's diet and digestive system and diseases of the eyelid. From a Chinese medical perspective, issues with the upper lid often correlate to a Spleen meridian imbalance and the lower lid correlates to a Stomach meridian imbalance. Poor digestion and improper diet (such a diet that includes daily excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sodas, etc.) can often cause problems such as sties. Reduce your intake of saturated fat and avoid hydrogenated oils and fried foods. see our recommendations for prevention for detailed information.

Beyond Self Help

Many doctors prescribe antibiotic drops or an ointment to control the infection. Sties rarely require excision.